The MLS Homegrown team couldn’t secure a victory against the Mexico U20 national team Wednesday night, falling 2-0 after conceding two first-half goals.
The match was relatively close statistically, with Mexico leading the MLS 18-12 on shots, but the MLS Homegrowns taking 61.5 percent of possession.
But the Mexico U20 team were able to take their chances behind an player of the match performance from 21-year-old Luis Marquez. The Chivas Guadalajara midfielder scored twice off set pieces, the first coming off a penalty kick and the second from a well-placed free kick.
Major League Soccer and Mexico fans will remember Marquez’s second cousin, Rafa Marquez, one of the most-capped players in Mexican national history, and the first-ever defender selected as a Designated Player in MLS.
Luis Marquez also participated in the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand, getting on the field for a group stage match against Serbia.
Despite the loss, second year Homegrown coach Landon Donovan pointed out the players’ development in their young careers:
“I told them last night that they are so much farther ahead at this point in their careers than any of us were, Stu [Stuart Holden], myself, any of us who played for the national team for a long time. Many of them are not playing with their first team yet, but they are much further along. It’s much more difficult now. We had an easier time because there weren’t as many good players then.”
The first half provided all the scoring action. The penalty came when Mexico was pushing forward on goal. Coy Craft lost control of the ball and came back with an hard challenge on Luis Marquez. After drawing the penalty, Marquez stepped up to take the spot kick, finishing just past Jesse Gonzalez, who, after a number of good saves beforehand, guessed correctly but dove too far and deflected the ball in.
Donovan was complimentary of Gonzalez despite conceding two goals:
“[Gonzalez] has got incredible potential. He is another guy who needs to play a lot of minutes. Right now he’s switching in and out with Chris Seitz. I’d like to see him play but he’s done really well and he’s been really great for us.”
Just before halftime, bad turned to worse for the MLSers as Marquez doubled his tally on a free kick from the right side of the box. He put in an inward curling shot-cross that fooled defender and keeper alike to bounce into the goal.
Quakes Tommy Thompson, the captain for Landon Donovan’s side, put in a high-energy shift to start the second half, culminating with a run down the right side and a cross to free up Galaxy striker Jack McBean for a wide open header. What would have brought the homegrown side back in the game came to nothing, as McBean mis-headed the ball wide and out of play.
Thompson spoke positively about the team’s performance:
“I thought we were really unlucky to give up a goal on a PK and a set piece but I thought we created some really good chances and it could have easily been 2-2.”
Seattle Sounders and US Men’s National Team forward Jordan Morris checked in the 62nd minute for Thompson, after perhaps a surprise that he wasn’t in the starting 11 to begin with. Morris was mostly unable to affect the game.
In the 74th minute, Mendiola grabbed the Homegrowns’ best chance of the evening, masterfully dribbling himself through on keeper Abraham Romero. But when it came to the final moment, Mendiola skied the ball a mile over Romero, on loan from the Real Salt Lake academy to the Mexico U20s.
Mexico nearly made it three against the Homegrowns, again off the foot of Marquez. His free kick found the head of Morelia forward Ulises Jaimes, who beat Morris in the air to bounce one off the ground and off the crossbar.
Donovan made certain to note the importance of the Homegrown game with regards to much more popular All-Star game:
“If I’m a fan, this game is as exciting to watch as tomorrow nights game. Now tomorrow night’s game has all the glitz and glamour but if I’m a true fan and a die hard fan, I want to see what the next generation looks like.”
The MLS Homegrown Game had finished in a draw both previous times, 0-0 against Portland U23s in 2014, and 1-1 (4-5) against Club America U20s.